Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)

  • The Department of Health (DOH) has launched a consultation on how public health specialists from non-medical backgrounds will be regulated by the HCPC.  The consultation closes on Friday 17 October.
  • The HCPC are consulting on changes to the Health and Care Professions Council (Registration and Fees) Rules 2003 (the ‘Rules’). The proposed amendments to the Rules would allow the HCPC to ask registrants and applicants to complete declarations about their professional indemnity arrangements and take action where a registrant does not have professional indemnity arrangements in place or where these do not provide appropriate cover. The consultation closes on Friday 31 October 2014.
  • The HCPC are seeking proposals for research to explore preparation for practice among newly qualified professionals and are particularly interested in the role the HCPC standards of education and training (SETs) and supporting guidance play in ensuring that education providers prepare students to be fit to practise as autonomous professionals. The deadline for proposals is 14 November 2014.
  • The HCPC has launched a consultation of proposed standards of podiatric surgery and it is hoped that these standards will ultimately set out standards for podiatric surgery training programmes and the knowledge, skills and understanding necessary for safe and effective practice.  Once standards have been agreed it is proposed that the HCPC will accredit post registration education and training programmes and note on the register those podiatrists who have completed an approved programme. The consultation closes on 16 January 2015.

General Medical Council (GMC)

  • Professor Stephenson has been appointed by the Privy Council as the new Chair of the GMC. Professor Stephenson will be standing down as Chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Collages to take up his new role and is currently Nuffield Professor of Child Health at the Institute of Child Health at University College London and Honorary Consultant Paediatrician at UCL Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust & Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust.
  • On 25 September 2014 the GMC agreed to develop a single national licensing examination which it is hoped will pave the way to a unified ‘passport to practise’ for doctors wishing to practise in the UK. The GMC’s stated aspiration is that this proposed exam should apply to any doctor joining the medical register.
  • A review of the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB) test has recommended the test should be made more robust, particularly with regard to assessment of ethical values. The test comprises two parts, a practical element and theoretical element,  and, in short, the review made the following recommendations, which the GMC accepts and will implement in due course:
    • The test should examine a wider range of ethical values;
    • There should be a reduction of variables affecting elements of the practical stage of the test;
    • The number of retakes for the written part of the test should be limited to four;
    • The validity of a pass in either part of the test should be limited  to two years;
    • The GMC should continue to review the disparity in outcomes for PLAB candidates in postgraduate exams and considers amending the purpose and standard of the PLAB test as necessary.

General Dental Council (GDC)

  • The Department of Health has launched a consultation on a Section 60 Order which would allow the GDC to introduce case examiners.  By means of this Order the GDC will be able to amend its current legislation (The Dentists Act 1984) to introduce:
    • case examiners to replace the Investigating Committee;
    • powers for the registrar to review decisions to close cases and to refer cases to the Interim Orders Committee;
    • a right to registrants to review the decision to issue a warning against them;
    • allow the GDC to agree with a registrant limitations on their practise in order to address any issues which have been raised.

The consultation closes on 21 November 2014. 

  • On 16 September 2014 the GDC updated its Investigating Committee Guidance Manual and Indicative Outcomes Guidance. This update is as part of ongoing improvements to the GDC’s Fitness to Practise process and to bring the guidance in the line with the new ‘Standards for the Dental Team’.

Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)

  • From 01 January 2015, Dame Janet Finch will be the new Chair of the NMC. Currently Dane Finch is a member of the Medical Research Council and Science and Technology Honours Committee and previously acted as Vice Chancellor of Keele University from 1995-2010.
  • On 01 October 2014 the Council of NMC agreed to increase the annual registration fee for nurses and midwives from £100-£120. This increase will take effect from March 2015.
  • On 03 October 2014 the Council approved the following proposed  changes to their Fitness to Practise (FtP) Rules and Education, Registration and Registration Appeals Rules:
    • introduction of case examiners who will determine whether a nurse or midwife has a case to answer;
    • introduction of an ability to review no case to answer decisions where the Registrar has reason to believe a decision was materially flawed, or new information may lead to a different decision;
    • changes in the composition of registration appeal panels removing the requirement for the Chair to be a serving member of the Council and removing the use of a registered medical practitioner as a panel member in health cases, and;
    • introduction of a power to request and verify information relating to a professional indemnity arrangements.

It is anticipated the above will take effect from early 2015.

  • On 1-3 October 2014 the NMC undertook an extraordinary review visit to Guernsey following concerns raised in respect of the supervision of midwives on the island. The review indicated serious concerns about the quality of supervision of midwives and the practice of midwives on the island. A report on the NMC’s finding is expected by the end of October

General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC)

  • On 06 October 2014 the GPhC announced a review of their Standards of Conduct, Ethics and Performance and will shortly commenced a programme of engagement with all stakeholders.
  • The GPhC has also launched a consultation on newly published draft guidance for registered pharmacies providing internet and distance sale supply or service provision. The GPhC are keen to get feedback on whether the draft guidance strikes the right balance between supporting innovation and providing medicines or pharmacy services in a way which is safe. The deadline for responding to the consultation is Wednesday 10 December 2014.

Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA)

  • The SRA is proposing the following changes to its education and training regulations:
    • Recognition of Welsh language skills as an alternative to English language skills for solicitors practising in Wales.
    • Removal of requirements for qualified lawyers overseas to have a certificate issued by the SRA confirming their eligibility to sit the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme Assessment (QLTS)
    • Removal of the requirement for solicitors to undertake Management Course Stage 1.

The SRA is consulting on the above changed and the consultation ends on 17 November 2014

  • Further, as of 17 September 2014 the SRA has taken the following further steps to deliver its programme of Regulatory Reform:
    • Measures to make it simpler for multi-disciplinary practices (MDPs) to be licensed to provide legal services under SRA regulation;
    • Changes to the requirements for accountants' reports on client accounts to make them more targeted. Firms will still be required to commission accountants' reports within six months of their financial reporting period, however only those reports that are qualified will have to be filed with the SRA.;
    • Changes to the eligibility criteria for claims on the Compensation Fund - the eligibility criteria have been changed to target help towards those consumers who most need protection;
    • Ending the annual Keeping of the Roll exercise such that solicitors who simply wish to remain on the roll will no longer need to apply and pay a fee every year;
    • Simplification of the Overseas Accounts Rules;
    • Simplifying the regulation of European lawyers operating in England and Wales.

Bar Standards Board (BSB)

  • On 07 October 2014, an appeal against the High Court's decision to dismiss a judicial review of the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA) was rejected, on all grounds, by the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal found that the scheme was lawful, did not interfere with the independence of the advocate or the judiciary, and that the Legal Services Board's decision to approve it was neither disproportionate nor unreasonable.

The BSB has welcomed the above judgment and now calls upon the leaders of the profession to work with the BSB to implement the scheme.

  • The BSB is introducing a new method of calculating Practising Certificate Fee (PCF) and from 2015/16 the PCF will be calculated on the basis of earnings as opposed to year of Call. There will be six rates of PCF related to income bands ranging from £100 for those whose gross fees are less than £30,000 to £1,500 for those whose gross fees are more than £240,00. Additionally arrangements for employed and self-employed practitioners will be harmonised. With employed barristers paying by reference to gross income, and self-employed barristers by reference to gross fees received within a prior 12-month period.
  • The latest Annual Report on the performance of the Bar Standards Board (BSB)'s Professional Conduct Committee and Professional Conduct Department was published on 19 September 2014 and the report showed that the percentage of cases being concluded or referred to disciplinary action within the agreed service standards increased from 64% in 2012/13 to 77% in 2013/14.